|Portrait of Alexander J. Cassatt and His Son, Robert Kelso Cassatt, 1884, Oil on Canvas|
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Posted by Aubrey Levinthal
I'm happy to share this announcement for Women and Biography opening at Woodmere Art Museum on February 8th. I have a piece in this show which was bought by a woman who promised her collection to Woodmere. So that's how that happened.
The show focuses on women who paint from their own life as a subject matter. I am more than honored to be showing alongside these women, many of whose paintings have been the source of contemplative looking for me. That first name though, Mary Cassatt, holds something particularly special for me.
Beginning in fifth grade, Mary Cassatt was to me what Michael Jordan was to many of my male counterparts. She was my Justin Bieber to girls of that age currently. If you couldn't already tell, I wasn't the coolest kid, but I was passionate.
Around that time, I already knew I loved art and knew quite a few artists -- Georgia O'Keeffe, Dali, da Vinci, Gauguin, Degas, Monet -- they were on my radar, but none held my intrigue like Mary Cassatt. I had read all of their 30 page biographies in the library and decided Mary was who I needed to emulate. Number 1 -- she spent time in Philadelphia and was a woman painter. Check, I could do that. Number 2 -- somewhat magically and simply (at least in the bio) she ended up in France alongside some of the best painters and thinkers of her generation. That would work for me.
So when I found out that our final graduating project was the 'famous person project' I naturally knew who would be my subject. For this project students in the entire grade had to create a written report and foam core poster and it would culminate in a one day event where we dressed as that person and presented them to the class.
I worked so hard on that report. The cover was a hand cut-out brown paper palette with collaged rainbow colored-blobs of paint. The kicker was the binding -- I hole punched the side in two places and used a paintbrush to hold the rubber bands that secured it in place. I was very shy at that time and I have to say normally pretty modest, but on that day I distinctly remember carrying the report in, casually facing outwards. Not too aggressive but just in case someone caught a glimpse they would note that I was not only depicting a great artist, but also one with her own artistic merit. HAHA!
My love has spread a bit since then, to other painters and realities for myself. But I definitely still have love for her. This painting at the PMA is always a favorite of mine. I love the way the darks fuse into one large abstract shape and what that suggests of the relationship of the father and son, form becomes content:
So my fifth grade self can't help but smile deeply at the reality of this Woodmere show and the proximity of our names on the publication. Of course I am in no way equating the two of us but it is quite an affirming feeling to look back close to 20 years and know that this thing of making art which seized me then still possesses me. And that I am lucky enough to be living a life in which I paint on most days I think would make that 10 year old version of myself pretty proud.